President of Argentina holds climate change meeting without Bolsonaro participation

BRASILIA — The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, hosted a virtual Latin American meeting on climate change this Wednesday, which was not attended by President Jair Bolsonaro. The absence of the Brazilian was interpreted by specialists heard by GLOBO as another missed opportunity for Brazil to remain a protagonist in discussions about the environment in the region.

The meeting was attended by names such as US special envoy for climate affairs, John Kerry; the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres; and Alok Sharma, president of COP -26, the world climate conference to be held in November this year in Scotland.

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Among the heads of state present were the presidents of Colombia and Paraguay, Iván Duque and Mario Abdo Benítez, respectively. In the case of Brazil, the Minister of the Environment, Joaquim Leite, sent a recorded video.

According to a source in the Brazilian government, the meeting promoted by Fernández did not have a negotiating character. It was “a virtual, irrelevant debate from a substantive point of view” and cannot be considered a preview of COP-26.

This source emphasized that the event was of limited importance, “to meet an internal agenda” of the Argentine leader. He also emphasized that few presidents participated in the virtual event.

Alberto Fernández and Bolsonaro are political opponents in the region. Since taking office, the Argentine has sought to fill gaps left by Brazil in relations with international players, such as the United States, noted a government interlocutor.

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Former Environment Minister Carlos Minc highlighted that Brazil was at the forefront on several environmental fronts. It was the first developing country to have targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the first to have a project to mitigate the effects of global warming by reducing deforestation. He added that the Brazilian government also held frequent meetings with other Amazon nations, such as Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.

— Brazil not only lost its environmental protagonism, but also became a protagonist of anti-environmentalism — affirmed Minc.

Daniel Wilkinson, director of the environment and human rights division at Human Rights Watch, believes that this type of procedure worsens Brazil’s image. For him, Bolsonaro’s absence from the meeting shows a gap between the Brazilian president and other international leaders.

— Bolsonaro’s absence from the Latin American climate summit will only reinforce the perception that Brazil is out of step with other leaders when it comes to tackling climate change. As the rest of the world mobilizes to face the biggest global crisis of our time, Bolsonaro’s disastrous policies in the Amazon run the risk of turning Brazil into an international pariah,” said Wilkinson.

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Executive Secretary of the Climate Observatory, Márcio Astrini highlighted that Brazil occupied important spaces in central themes: the skill and capacity of national negotiators and the Amazon.

He believes that, in the first part, perhaps Argentina or other countries in Latin America can strive to fill the vacuum. In the case of the Amazon, it is almost impossible for any nation to take the place of a country that has 60% to 65% of the forest in its territory.

— In fact, what we need, especially in this environmental agenda, is not someone in Brazil’s place, but for the country to be rescued from the bottom of the well that the current government has placed us in and resume its place on the climate agenda, something that won’t happen to Bolsonaro,” Astrini said.

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For the professor of forestry engineering at the University of Brasília Carlos Francisco Rossetti, climate change is of great ecological, economic and social relevance and represents an opportunity for insertion for all countries, governments and civil society. According to him, Brazil will always have a leading role in this issue.

— I don’t understand that Brazil loses its prominence in this matter of interest that goes beyond ideologies, geographic limits, and comes to be part of the environment management matrix. It is clear that the most appropriate policies cannot be delayed, and it is very clear that we still have a long way to go – said the university professor.